9 Overvalued Players in Fantasy Football Based on Expected Win Totals
Let's play a little game of "would you rather," shall we?
In fantasy football, would you rather have:
A) A 100-yard day out of your running back.
B) A 60-yard day where your running back clangs into the end zone.
C) A 50-yard day where that dude hits paydirt twice.
Just by doing some quick math, it'll become pretty clear that you'll want the guy with the two-touchdown day. Touchdowns matter in fantasy football, and we want them in our lives even if they come at the expense of some yardage.
Now, this could lead to a discussion around regression because that 100-yard back would -- in most cases -- be more likely to score in upcoming games than those lower-yardage bangers. Simply by touching the ball more often, his odds of scoring should be higher.
Unless his team just sucks.
Yes, regression will happen if we assume all else is equal. But in the NFL, better teams score more points, and that means they score more touchdowns. More touchdowns means more moola for your fantasy squads. It's not a difficult concept, but it's a factor that some overlook a hair more than they should.
It's entirely possible that the 100-yard rusher from our scenario is on a bad team. When that happens, his team will be less likely to score, and if he isn't involved in the passing game, he may wind up on the sidelines for the fourth quarter. Having an asset like that is like trying to row upstream without a paddle.
If the 50-yard rusher plays for one of the league's best teams, he'll be given plenty of opportunities to score, meaning that two-tuddy day may not be an outlier at all.
And this isn't a thought process that applies to just running backs. When we looked two years ago at the relationship between preseason Vegas win totals and fantasy scoring, the positions with the tightest pairing between the two were kickers and quarterbacks. Wide-receiver scoring was also more tightly tied to win totals than that for running backs, and tight ends weren't far behind. This matters everywhere.
As we get closer to when most fantasy football drafts will occur (for those not already dabbling in best-ball waters), it's time to take a look at what those win totals are saying for 2018. By comparing a player's average draft position (ADP) to his team's preseason win totals, we can see which assets are being over- or undervalued based on the strength of their surrounding situation.
All win totals will be from BetOnline while all ADP data will be for 12-team, PPR drafts, according to Fantasy Football Calculator. We'll run through the overvalued assets today and swing back later on to those being undervalued.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
ADP: QB11 | Team Win Total: 7.5
Matthew Stafford is a good quarterback in a pretty decent situation. He has solid receivers, and the team strengthened its offensive line by adding center Frank Ragnow in the first round of the draft. There's plenty to like with Stafford.
But with the quarterbacks who are going right behind Stafford, it seems difficult to justify his ADP.
Specifically, the three quarterbacks going right after him are Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger. All three have win totals of at least 9.5, and Roethlisberger's up at 10.5. Stafford's not bad, but his team isn't on the level of those three.
If Stafford were to slip and be available once those guys are off the board -- something that is realistic with this group being all in one cluster -- then he'd be a viable selection. But with the bookmakers pegging the Detroit Lions for just 7.5 wins this year, we're wise to hold off on Stafford and see if we can snag him later.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts
ADP: QB15 | Team Win Total: 6.5
If we were guaranteed health for Andrew Luck, he likely wouldn't be this cheap, and the Indianapolis Colts' win total probably would not be this low. But with Luck still yet to throw a football and the season just a few months away, it's easy to understand the pessimism.
Luck has bulked up and is present at the team's organized activities, which is a step in the right direction. But it still hasn't forced the betting market to bite on the Colts' win total. To find another quarterback in the ADP list with a team win total lower than Luck's, you have to dip down to Alex Smith as the 21st quarterback off the board.
Luck certainly has a great ceiling if he plays, but you could make the same argument for Marcus Mariota and Dak Prescott with the rushing upside they possess. Both those guys are currently being drafted after Luck. As such, it's wise to hold off on drafting Luck until we have more information about his health.
Overvalued Running Backs
Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
ADP: RB16 | Team Win Total: 6.5
At running back, some players are able to overcome poor situations by being involved in the passing game. If you're catching passes, you'll be involved in the gameplan late even in losses, and you can overcome the variance associated with not scoring touchdowns.
Jordan Howard is not one of those players.
Howard had 50 targets in his rookie season, serving in a bellcow role that saw him play at least 60% of the snaps in 12 of his 15 games. That was with the team finishing with a 3-13 record.
Last year, with Tarik Cohen in the mix, Howard played 60% of the snaps just 6 times in 16 games. He was held to single-digit half-PPR points in half of his games, which is not shocking when you consider that the team won just five games.
The Chicago Bears have generated buzz for being similar to last year's Los Angeles Rams, but there are major differences between the two rebuilds, and that helium has turned Howard into an early-third-round pick. The bookmakers' win total is yet to budge, though, still sitting at 6.5, and we may want to be bearish on this back until that changes.
Derrius Guice, Washington
ADP: RB21 | Team Win Total: 5.5
The only team with a lower win total right now than Washington is the Cleveland Browns. There are running backs on other teams with 5.5-win totals going higher than Guice -- David Johnson, Joe Mixon, and Kenyan Drake -- but all of them are more likely to be involved in the passing game than Guice is, assuming Chris Thompson is healthy.
To make things worse, run blocking is not a strength for this offensive line. Last year's struggles could be pinned on injuries, but they were scuffling even before that deluge hit. This means that the touches Guice does get could lack efficiency, making him a bit hard to stomach at this ADP.
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
ADP: RB24 | Team Win Total: 6.5
You could have made a strong case for including the aforementioned Kenyan Drake in this list. He's on a poor team, and he may wind up fighting rookie Kalen Ballage for touches.
With Ronald Jones, the team has already said that he will split rushing duties with Peyton Barber, and Charles Sims could stick around to take away passing-down opportunities. Jones totaled just 32 receptions in his career at USC (maxing out at 14 in his final season), so he doesn't seem likely to earn that role even if Sims gets cut.
The Buccaneers should be more effective at running the ball this year after adding stud center Ryan Jensen in free agency. But Jones isn't guaranteed a huge chunk of the rushing pie, and he's a longshot to net a bunch of targets. Unless the Bucs heavily outperform this win total, those who take him at the end of the fourth round could get burned.
Overvalued Wide Receivers
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
ADP: WR9 | Team Win Total: 6.5
Technically, A.J. Green carries a higher draft cost and is on a team with a lower win total than the Buccaneers. But Green also doesn't have much competition for targets. Mike Evans seems to have that, and it makes his ADP a tad bit suspect.
The Buccaneers invested pretty heavily in their pass-catching corps last year, drafting O.J. Howard in the first round and Chris Godwin in the third. Both contributed last year, and Godwin may slide into a starting role in 2018.
Evans has shown in the past that he can be a monster, scoring 12 touchdowns in both 2014 and 2016. But Vegas doesn't seem to think this team will be a fixture in the red zone this upcoming season, and Evans may not command the target load he did in the past. You may want to invest cautiously here given these concerns.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
ADP: WR13 | Team Win Total: 5.5
Larry Fitzgerald is frustratingly consistent, and he never seems to drop off. He has at least 100 receptions in each of the past three years and has shown no sign of deterioration entering his age-35 season. But the situation around him is a tad concerning.
The bookmakers have the Arizona Cardinals tabbed as a 5.5-win team, likely due to a lack of talent on offense outside of Fitzgerald and David Johnson. There are reasons to like both Sam Bradford and Josh Rosen, but there are too many unknowns here to feel great about the offense as a whole.
On top of that, there are some new bodies on the team who could draw some looks if the franchise gears toward the future. They took wide receiver Christian Kirk in the second round, and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones is generating offseason buzz. Fitzgerald is dependent on volume to return value as the 13th receiver off the board, and any slip in that could leave investors begging for more.
Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns
ADP: WR16 | Team Win Total: 4.5
Assuming you are a living, breathing human with functioning eyeballs, you probably want Josh Gordon to succeed. Few receivers are more fun to watch when they're on than this guy, and he showed last year that the long layoff didn't sink his value.
But there are some reasons for concern, too.
The first is that the bookmakers pin the Cleveland Browns at just 4.5 wins this year. That's the lowest in the entire league.
With the personnel the Browns have and their upgrades at quarterback, it's superbly easy to make a case for betting the over on that for this team. But Gordon's concerns aren't exclusively about the offense's abilities.
The team added Jarvis Landry in the offseason, and Landry's role leads to a ton of volume. He's going to get his targets. Tight end David Njoku was a first-round pick in 2017, and they just signed pass-catching running back Duke Johnson to an extension. There are sneakily a lot of mouths to feed here.
Gordon's a great receiver, and his team should be better than it was last year. But Vegas hasn't bought into this team yet, and Gordon's not guaranteed to command a massive target share. It may be time to pump the brakes on Gordon in season-long drafts.
Overvalued Tight End
Trey Burton, Chicago Bears
ADP: TE9 | Team Win Total: 6.5
With the Bears, Trey Burton is finally getting a shot to show what he can do, freed from the shadow of Zach Ertz. And because of how Burton performed in Ertz's place last year, it makes sense that he'd be getting a lot of buzz.
But is it possible that the hype has gotten out of control?
As mentioned, the bookmakers have been hesitant to buy into the offseason changes in Chicago, keeping their win total reasonable at 6.5. And Burton has never netted more than 60 targets in a season in his career, sitting at 95 total across four years.
It's hard to find a lot of tight ends with upside because the position is a dumpster fire more often than not. Burton does seemingly have that. But so, too, do Jordan Reed, George Kittle, and Tyler Eifert, all of whom are going at least one round -- and as many as three rounds -- after Burton.
Burton could blow past this ADP if everything works out in Chicago. But that's a big if, and it's not one the bookmakers foresee happening. Until that changes, it's likely wise to hold off on drafting your tight end and opt to take someone later in the draft.